Month: May 2015

Business Profile

The Spice and Tea Exchange-Bringing the Flavors of the World to Old Town

The Old Town Crier is revisiting our local spice and tea mecca on King Street in this months Business Profile. Alexandria Spice & Tea Exchange (ASTE) just turned 5 years old this past April. I have to admit that I was one of the first locals to jump on their bandwagon because of the variety of their offerings and more specifically the fact that if you need something “exotic” you don’t have to buy a whole “jar” of “it”. Case in point “saffron”. Those readers who are “foody” inclined will understand that saffron is very expensive and when you need just a little bit, you can get it here without the expense of a whole jar. I consulted with co-owner Joy Quinn in order to get some factual background information about ASTE and she offered lots of great information. Spice and Tea was a small, but growing, franchise when Joy stumbled across it. Each store is independently owned and operated and the Old Town Alexandria location is store number 13. Partnering with Taruna Reddy, they both have a passion for food and wanted to build a fun and creative environment in which to apply years of (boring) business & IT consulting into their own business. In partnership, they opened Alexandria in April of 2010 and opened a sister store in Annapolis in mid-March 2011. Independently, Joy opened a store in Rehoboth in 2013 and is about to open another store in an undisclosed location this year. According to Quinn, “While we have the unique/hard to get ingredients that foodies and gourmets seek, we are all about helping the “average” cook be a hero in the kitchen without extensive effort. Just add one of our customer blends to something nominal and make it phenomenal: Amy’s organic soup from a can combined…

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Pets, Places, & Things, Road Trip

Road Trip May 2015: Sussex County Delaware

This month our road trip once again took us to Sussex County Delaware, but more specifically to the beaches of southern Delaware. The beautiful beaches of southern Delaware were separated from the Washington D.C. area by the Chesapeake Bay for a long time, but that all changed in 1952. The first span of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge was completed in 1952, opening up the Atlantic beaches to D.C. and northern Virginia. The bridge was the world’s longest continuous over water steel structure. The parallel structure was added in 1973. What was once nearly impossible to reach was now just a little over three hours away by car and today that drive has been reduced to a little over two hours. In the late 60’s and early 70’s the building boom along the shore began in earnest. Washingtonians, looking for that summer retreat, were buying up beach homes as soon as they were built. You can see these little beach communities today as you drive north along Highway One from Fenwick Island to Lewes and Cape Henlopen State park where you will find Cape Henlopen Light House as depicted on our cover by our friend and local artist, Paul McGehee. With the proliferation of the housing market, the population began to swell in the summer months and towns such as Rehoboth Beach, Dewey Beach, Bethany Beach and Fenwick Island became more and more year-round settlements. As more and more people moved to the area, the needs of the people were met with the building of shopping centers and the world famous Tanger Outlet Malls. Over the years the real estate market has slowed, but recently has taken a turn for the better, according to Fred Dean, Sussex County Association of Realtors (SCAOR) 2015 President. “There’s no questioning the fact that the…

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Exploring VA Wines, Wining & Dining

May is Growing Time!

I am always amazed at how quickly the seasons change. Even though this spring was later in arriving this year, it seemed like summer arrived just as the last of the snow was gone. On the farm, the list of projects grows exponentially. Around here, once the grass starts growing, it seems we are always needing to mow it. The asparagus is popping, the pear blossoms are blooming, the berries are pushing new shoots and here come the grapes. When the grape buds push, they seem to open for us about 2-3 weeks after the cherry blossoms. Once they start swelling, it is important that we monitor the progress and the pests that can destroy those buds and small shoots. The grape flea beetle will eat the inside of the bud consuming the tiny clusters that are the grapes for the season. The climbing cut worms can do the same thing. We do not use insecticides unless we need to. Some years the bugs do not show up. Other times, the growth of the plant can push past the destruction these little critters can cause. The biggest pest that we contend with on our farm in the spring is the threat of a killer frost. We have a frost protection system that we will put to work on those nights when our small green shoots are out and a cold spring night is in the forecast. I have an alarm as well that goes off if the temperature drops below 35; we are up immediately and put our system to work. The method uses fans to remove the cold, low lying air in the vineyard and tarps hanging on our perimeter deer fence to keep the cold air outside the vineyard from flowing in. This system does not work on…

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Master's of Cuisine, Wining & Dining

Chef Special: Chef Sheeru Madhu

By: Chester Simpson Chef Sheeru Madhu London Curry House 191 Somerville Street Cameron Station Alexandria, VA 703-675-7194 When did you first become interested in cooking? Why did you decide to pursue a culinary career? I was very passionate about cooking when I was in high school . I always helped my mom in her kitchen and learned from her. During college I was working as an assistant to a chef in London. Then I decided that I would make my career as an Indian Curry Chef. I wanted to give the world the best of Indian curries with all of their aromas and flavors of spice. Who have been the biggest inspirations for your career? My mom. I grew up eating her best curries and also my inspiration is from India’s famous celebrity chef, Sanjeev Kapoor. What dish on your menu are you most curious to see how it’s received? Mayfair-London (Must Try) Biryani Chicken, Lamb, Goat, Shrimp with steamed Basmati long grain rice layered with spice and garnished with fried onions and mint. Also Britains National Dish, Chicken Tikka Masala. Originally Indian but perfected in Scotland – boneless chicken breast in cubes cooked in tangy tomato sauce. What do you do to ensure that the quality of the food going out to customers is of high standards? We buy our spices from our trusted vendors who import them directly from India. Our vegetables are fresh from local farmers markets and local produce vendors. Our meat is fresh and never frozen. If any chef in the world could prepare you a meal, who would it be? My mentor Sanjeev Kapoor, famous India’s celebratory chef – he is very creative. You give him a few spices and within a few minutes he comes up with curry dishes that you have…

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Pets, Places, & Things, Urban Garden

The Memorial Day Poppy

The inspiration for this column began at the local shopping mall. Yeah, I know it is a pretty bizarre place to get any kind of inspiration let alone gardening inspiration but sometimes you just have to go with the flow. You see sitting out front of one of the mega stores was a WWII veteran and what looked like his grandson. On the shaky card table were a bunch of red silk poppies and a can for donations. I always put some money in the can and get a poppy to wear. It’s a habit I picked up from my Dad when I was a little kid. He always bought a poppy and kept it in the visor of his truck. I didn’t know why he did this exactly except that it had something to do with the war. He was a veteran of WWII and since he is no longer around to buy his poppy I do it for him. That old vet sitting at his table a few weeks before Memorial Day got me wondering about the story of the red poppy. There are many kinds of poppies but the poppy mentioned in John McCrae’s poem “In Flanders Fields”, was found growing in the fields of Flanders and often referred to as Flanders Poppy is actually Papaver rhoeas more commonly called Corn Poppy. This Mediterranean native is found growing in cultivated fields all over southern Europe. Its legend reaches back thousands of years. They have been found in Egyptian tombs dating back 3,000 years. There is a drawing of a poppy that was found in the Codex Vindobonensis which was put together for the Byzantine princess Anicia Juliana. The Codex is dated at over a thousand years. Homer mentions poppies in the Iliad, comparing the head of a…

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Pets, Places, & Things, Single Space


My sister-in-law refers to aging as the ability to see ‘the end of the conveyor belt.’ While I still have the horizon in my vista (as does she!), I’d be lying if I said that some of the conversations in my head weren’t thinking along those lines. “How many cars do I have in my future?” “If this latex mattress is supposed to last 15 years, I may only have to buy a couple more so probably a good investment” or “I may only have one more shot at the home of my dreams, before it’s into the home of jello lunches and nightly bingo so do I want the blue pearl or ubatuba granite in the kitchen?” As you can imagine, those thoughts are a little stressful. I don’t want to make the wrong choice and be stuck staring at ubatuba in my twilight years. All this confirms is that I’m feeling very middle aged. Actually—probably a little more like middle aged crazy (MAC). And, trying to do the math of consumer spending is just the beginning. Lucky for us, the transition to middle age has a whole host of challenges to entertain. In the past, happy hour conversations revolved around vacations. Now they revolve around retirement locations. XXL will ask me over a glass of chardonnay—“so what’s our next step? Where do we go from here?” Wow. I thought marriage was a big commitment, but retirement planning kinda blows that out of the water. Where do you decide to live out the rest of your dreams? Mountains? Beach? For a girl who has never lived outside of Virginia—and by Virginia, I mean Northern VA, that’s a mind blower. Heck—I only have two passport stamps. I love hearing other people’s plans—some of whom have their plan all mapped out…

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Beauty & Health, Fitness

Fit Mom

As a personal trainer and mother, I can appreciate being able to have an hour to myself to get in a good workout. This event rarely happens. It seems that by the time I actually have some time to spend on myself there is still a million things to get done. Exercise is always on my list of things to do for the day and I have found that the best way to fit it in is by doing a 15-20 minute workout at least twice a day. Fitting in a workout can be easier if you make it a part of your daily routine. I know this is easier said than done, but it is possible. Make your workout fun for you and for your kids. Try doing a workout video in the living room while your kids play. If they are old enough to move around have fun with them, you get your workout in and the kids get worn out too! When babies are too young to move on their own, it’s the best time to strap them in a stroller and go for a walk. If you are a runner, I highly recommend investing in a jogging stroller – it will make exercising fun and the jogging strollers fold up so you can take them just about everywhere. Exercising increases your metabolism, increases energy and will help you sleep better (even if you are only getting a few hours at a time).  You can complete an entire strength training routine in just under 20minutes using only your body weight.  The best part about body weight training is that you can do it anywhere! Total Body Strength Workout Warm-up: jumping jacks, walk in place for 1 minute Squat Jump -Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. -Squat down,…

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Beauty & Health, First Blush

The Secrets to a Fool Proof Self Tan

Learning to apply self-tanner is as much about patience and perseverance as it is an art form.  It does not have to be an uphill battle, like learning how to paint the Mona Lisa.  It is achievable and a few tricks of the trade will have you looking as stunningly bronzed as ever. Even if you seek out a professional for help, it is important to know what and what not to do.  Remember, regardless of your self-tanning fate, it is still better to get that fake bake than to bake in the sun or in a wretched tanning bed. Step 1 – Exfoliate – You must get off all that dead skin before even attempting to point that bronzing bottle at your body.  If you do not slough, the tanner will blotch.  Pay particular attention to rough spots like knees, elbows, heels, and hands.   When choosing an exfoliant, be sure to choose one that is oil-free.  Oil prevents tanner from properly penetrating. Step 2 – Prep Yourself – To avoid turning green, orange or any other color of the rainbow, it is extremely important that you prep your skin.  Remove deodorant – it can react to the self-tanner and turn your underarms green.  Put moisturizer on your eye brows – the tanner can turn them orange.  Finally, rub a thin layer of body lotion onto chronically dry areas such as elbows, hands, heels and hands to keep them from turning darker shades of brown.  All this will ensure that the tanner absorbs nicely without splotching or streaking. Step 3 – Dress Accordingly – Opt for less is more.  Choose clothing that is not your Sunday best.  Keep in mind these clothing items may or most likely will be slathered in self tanner.  If at home, naked is best. …

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From the Bay to the Blue Ridge, To the Blue Ridge

Solar Expansion Puts Popular Fauquier Business in Jeopardy

Last month, Dominion Power’s rezoning request to install hundreds of acres of solar panels on farmland in central Fauquier County was given the green light by the Planning Commission and today a very successful small business is in jeopardy. Dominion wants to build solar panels on the grounds of what is now Shady Grove Hunting Preserve and Kennel under the trappings of “solar energy is a good thing” and “this will be good for Fauquier County.” The real truth is that this could destroy a viable and vibrant business in order to erect hundreds of acres of solar panels that will benefit no one: not the Dominion shareholders, not the users of Dominion’s power, and last but not least, certainly not the taxpaying citizens of Fauquier County. And they will be a hideous blight on the land. While it’s true that solar energy has made advances, even the best, most advanced technology still costs far more to produce than any possible cost savings to be had anywhere in this country, but especially in this state. Solar energy cannot be stored for peak periods like other energy forms and at best, even in a hot, sunny desert climate, is less than 30 percent efficient. Or in other words: at present, solar energy costs way more to produce than it generates. Further, the type of panels that would be installed are already obsolete. Dominion’s customers and you, the taxpayer, are the ones paying for this expensive experiment. While solar energy might one day be a worthwhile investment, that day is still a long way off and the taxpayers of Fauquier County and the rest of the state should not be forced to fund this outrageous waste of money. Sadly, this solar boondoggle would never have gotten to the point of the Dominion…

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